Blood Rites

The Dresden Files has become one of the most popular series in the speculative fiction genre, what with the last few installments all topping the New York Times bestseller list. For some reason, it doesn't appear that these novels enjoy the same kind of popularity on the other side of the pond. But in the USA, Jim Butcher has become a veritable genre powerhouse. At the beginning, this series was a bit formulaic and episodic in format. Still, for all that, the misadventures of Harry Dresden made for entertaining and fun-filled reads. With the fourth installment, Summer Knight, the author elevated his game significantly, bringing the Dresden Files to a higher level and setting the stage for bigger and better things to come!

And with Death Masks, the fifth volume, Butcher found a way to raise the bar even higher. We clearly saw evidence of a larger, more convoluted, and more ambitious overall story arc. Which boded well for future installments! No matter how popular this subgenre is, a lot of SFF fans seem to look down on urban fantasy. But with the last couple of Dresden Files books, Jim Butcher has shown us that urban fantasy can be as good and multilayered as any other subgenre.

Blood Rites builds on the storylines from its predecessors and confirms that Summer Knight and Death Masks were indeed transition novels meant to pave the way for that bigger and more complex story arc that I alluded to. Having now read Blood Rites and the next two volumes, Dead Beat and Proven Guilty, I can confirm that Butcher has upped his game even more and has made the Dresden Files one of the very best series on the market today. Yes, it's that damn good!

Here's the blurb:

For Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, there have been worse assignments than going undercover on the set of an adult film. Dodging flaming monkey poo, for instance. Or going toe-to-leaf with a walking plant monster. Still, there is something more troubling than usual about his newest case. The film's producer believes he's the target of a sinister entropy curse, but it's the women around him who are dying, in increasingly spectacular ways.

Harry is doubly frustrated because he got involved with this bizarre mystery only as a favor to Thomas, his flirtatious, self-absorbed vampire acquaintance of dubious integrity. Thomas has a personal stake in the case Harry can't quite figure out, until his investigation leads him straight to Thomas' oversexed vampire family. Harry is about to discover that Thomas' family tree has been hiding a shocking secret; a revelation that will change Harry's life forever.

One of the highlights of the series continues to be the first-person hardboiled narrative of the endearing, if frequently inept, wizard Harry Dresden. Harry's heart is always in the right place, and his flawed nature definitely makes him one of the most likeable SFF characters out there. Witnessing events occurring through Harry Dresden's eyes is never dull.

As the only POV protagonist, understandably Dresden takes centre stage throughout the book. And yet, it's the supporting cast which helps make this installment the best one yet. His interaction with Thomas will have momentous repercussions on both Harry and the vampire. Revelations about both Thomas and Harry's past will change the wizard in a profound way and force him to face Ebenezar, his former mentor, and demand answers to life-changing questions. Bob the skull continues to be hilarious and steals the show in most scenes that feature the old spirit. Revelations are made about the White Court and its vampires, which adds yet more depth to this tale. And the relationship between Dresden and Murphy continues to evolve. Oh, and Harry gets a new puppy!

In the last two volumes, the introduction of new concepts, the addition of new characters, and developments hinted at the fact that this was a series that resounded with a lot more depth than meets the eye. As I mentioned, Blood Rites confirmed that this is indeed the case and it pushes the envelope even further. As imaginative as it turned out to be in the first three volumes, there is no denying that the series was formulaic in style. Yet since then, every new book built on the plotlines introduced in the others and made the series better and better.

The sixth volume brings the Dresden Files to a new level. Far from losing steam, this series keeps growing in size, scope, and inventiveness. If, like me, you are late for this party, give these books a go. Chances are it will be the most fun you've had reading in many a year!

The final verdict: 8.5/10

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